Newsmakers: North Hennepin’s Rolando Garcia Talks Back to School, COVID Mitigation on Campus
North Hennepin Community College’s Rolando Garcia says staff are glad to have students back on campus.
“There’s an energy and a hope that we are feeling now that was not here,” said Dr. Garcia.”There’s certainly more student life on campus.”
Garcia says the campus is much more lively than it was last fall, when learning was still predominately remote.
“It’s hard to explain, when you are walking around and chatting with students on what’s important, what’s going on, it kind of restores the reason why you get into this to begin with,” said Garcia. “It’s a calling to serve.”
Since Garcia started serving as North Hennepin’s president a little over a year ago, coping with the pandemic has been a part of how he has served.
COVID-19 Mitigation Strategies in Place on Campus
On campus, there are several COVID-19 mitigation strategies in place. The campus has universal mask mandates and social distancing measures for classrooms and common areas. Buildings have updated air filtration systems and modified water filtration systems at water fountains so you can only use the machine with a water bottle.
“We’ve put a lot of precautions and safety measures to protect our students, faculty, staff and visitors,” said Garcia. “It’s from a place of love. We are looking out for each other.”
Online learning has been a big change for the campus. North Hennepin now offers 65 percent of courses online.
“We were mostly face-to-face before we had to make the shift in the spring when everything started shutting down,” said Garcia. “But we have learned and we have improved.”
Garcia says they are investing in professional development for staff and for students too.
“We are working with students, making sure they have access to technology, that they have access to networking to whatever resources they have to be successful. We are trying to do that for everyone.”
Ensuring students have access to technology is one of many ways the campus is trying to eliminate barriers to education. They help with food insecurity, mental health counseling, and also provide for students who are homeless.
“North Hennepin Community College is the third most diverse college in the Minnesota State system,” said Garcia. “We have a lot of challenges, but we are working as hard as we can to make sure we are eliminating all of these obstacles for our students and for our community. We want folks to come to us. We are a source for assistance. We are a resource for mentally, physically and really whatever we can do to help, that’s what we’ll do.”